Almost one hundred percent of all video game characters these days are badasses. Just look at all the “bald space marine”-like protagonists, or all the bulky, short-haired heroes. I´d even go as far to say: People complaining about the lack of females lead characters are complaining about the lesser problem. Just take a look at some of the females, and it´s just as bad as their male counter part. What is really missing are inconspicuous characters.
When I´m saying “inconspicuous”, I mean guys that are wispy, unimpressive, maybe plain. Average guys. The curious losers. It´s rather typical for such characters to be of younger age, but it´d be perfectly okay to have such character traits in an older person. I once wrote about how I prefer becoming a hero over being a hero from the beginning. That can be expanded into the topic of badassery, too.
The gaming world today is one giant power-trip. Start up Gears of War and feel powerful. Start up Final Fantasy 13 and feel powerful. Start up Mass Effect and feel powerful. And so on. Don´t get me wrong, I love Mass Effect, but you´re this confident captain from the very beginning. How much more interesting would it have been if you were a youngster with no knowledge, trying to find your place in this huge world? But it seems that gamers don´t want these games, at least not on a frequent basis. Having had a look at all the news from the gamescom expo, all I see are titles like Bulletstorm, Castlevania or Knights Contract – games that are all about a powerful character and badass-slogans as well as badass-actions. Seeing how all these games are getting hype from even freak-gamers on big gaming-boards, it´s safe to say that nothing will change about the instrumentalization of gaming characters in the near future.
It´s sad, because I really think that playing as the curious loser would be a lot more interesting than as a ready-to-go badass. There are rare examples, most popular probably being the Legend of Zelda-series. Link is not a badass in any way, he´s just as knowledgable as the player. Looking at not just games, there´s also the “hero” of “How to train your dragon“, who was just so likable. As for more examples, simply take about every hero of a Studio Ghibli-anime movie. Perfect visualization of what I´m talking about. So why do I prefer this kind of characters? Because, as a fan of big action-adventures with focus on exploration, I feel so much more connected to the character I´m controlling when he´s like me: Curious.